Packers 28, Cowboys 7; Balanced offensive attack leads Packers to victory
From Michael Cohen, JSonline.com
~Green Bay— The news broke around lunch time Sunday, minutes before the wave of noon games kicked off across the National Football League: Mike McCarthy, coach of the Green Bay Packers, had taken back play-calling duties on offense.
The change, which was first reported by FOX, reversed course on a move McCarthy made in February, shortly after his team lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. The role he bestowed upon Tom Clements, his associate head coach/offense, reached its expiration date after just 12 games, a number of ugly performances and surprisingly uncharacteristic statistics from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
That McCarthy was back in charge of the offense ushered in a wave of optimism from fans, and plenty of them expressed their adulation on social media. This was the move, they hoped, that would rediscover the explosiveness so often seen with Rodgers leading the way. This was the decision, they felt, that was weeks overdue after ugly showings against a handful of opponents, including a number of division games.
Anticipation translated to a refreshing first half against the Dallas Cowboys. Rodgers played efficiently (17-of-24 for 171 yards and two touchdowns), and the running game piled up yards behind tailback Eddie Lacy, reinstated after his demotion last week.
The result was a balanced offense — and a 14-7 advantage — unseen since before the bye in October. At one point, the Packers had run 40 total plays with a dead-even split — 20 runs, 20 passes.
With the score still the same midway through the fourth quarter, the Packers turned again to the run. McCarthy dialed up rushing play after rushing play for Eddie Lacy and James Starks, gaining yards in chunks and draining the clock.
Starks preserved the win with a 30-yard burst up the middle to give the Packers a 21-7 lead with 4:44 remaining.
A 1-yard touchdown by Lacy less than two minutes later secured a 28-7 victory.
Player of the Game: Lacy. Demoted last week against the Detroit Lions for missing curfew the night before the game, Lacy responded with an impressive effort that overflowed with energy. He ripped off yards in piles by breaking tackles and spinning through the line of scrimmage, and a handful of plays were punctuated with emotional screams. He finished with 124 yards on 24 carries.
— NFL (@NFL) December 14, 2015
Turning point: Leading 14-7 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated, the Packers needed to put away the Cowboys, a team playing without starting quarterback Tony Romo. They mounted a punishing 12-play, 84-yard drive that ate up more than 6 minutes of game time and featured seven runs of 5 yards or more. James Starks broke loose up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown that broke the game open, pushing the Packers ahead by two scores. The offensively challenged Cowboys could not recover.
Big number: 42 — Rushing attempts for the Packers that showcased a balanced offensive attack featuring 124 ards from Eddie Lacy and 71 yards from James Starks.
What went right: Put simply, this was exactly the type of offensive performance the Packers needed. Responding to a change in play caller made public hours before kickoff, the Packers played with passion, ruthlessness and efficiency — all traits that had been missing this season. Rodgers threw for more than 150 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and the running attack won the day by racking up first downs (and scores) in the second. A bunch that ranked 22nd in the league in total offense and 15th in rushing yards per game made a legitimate statement at Lambeau Field.
What went wrong: The short-yardage woes continue for the Packers in a trend that appears to be independent of the play caller. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line on a play that followed three previous failures from a maximum of 12 feet outside the end zone. In the third quarter, this time on third and 1, Rodgers threw a strange lofted pass to fullback John Kuhn that fell incomplete and never had a chance. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys found a good deal of success running the football. Their first touchdown drive featured four running plays that gobbled up 80 yards in an instant, highlighted by a 45-yard gain by Darren McFadden. For the game, the Cowboys finished with 171 yards rushing.
Original story here